MINUTES OF THE REFORMED PRESBYTERY.
HALL, corner of Twelve and Filbert Streets, Philadelphia, May 25th, 1869.
The Presbytery met agreeably to adjournment, and was constituted with prayer by the Moderator. The members present were the following: Rev. J.F. Fulton, Rev. David Steele, and Mr. David Peoples, Elder, from the Session of Philadelphia congregation. Absent, J.J. Peoples.
The Minutes of last Meeting were read, amended, and approved. Mr. Robert Alexander, elder, was invited to a seat, as consultative member. He accepted the invitation. The former Moderator and Clerk were continued, inquiry was made as to the observance of the days of fasting and thanksgiving appointed last year, and the answers were satisfactory, so far as heard from.
Whereas rumours have reached the Members of this court by letters and otherwise, that Rev. James F. Fulton had acted disorderly in withdrawing from the ministry of Rev. J.J. Peoples, and—
Whereas the Presbytery has grounds to believe that adequate cause was furnished for such withdrawing, therefore—
“That Mr. Fulton’s course is deemed justifiable in the circumstances in which he as placed.
“Inquiry being made whether Miami Session had obeyed the injunction of this court by adding to their number at least two Members within the ensuing three months from last May, there was no legal information in response to the inquiry, either by letter or commissioner.
“Two papers were laid on Presbytery’s table, one a libel against Rev J.J. Peoples, and signed, Robert J. Shields; the other containing the names of two or three witnesses to each of the charges in the libel, and all being members of the Miami congregation. They were referred to a Committee to report on them. The Committee were Rev: J.F. Fulton and Elder Peoples. On the Signs of the Times Rev. D. Steele and Mr. D. Peoples were appointed to prepare a report to be submitted for the consideration of the court. Adjourned with prayer to meet here at 4 o’clock p.m.
“Same place, 4 o’clock p.m.
“The court met and was opened with prayer. All the members were present as before. Reports of Committees were called for. The Committee on the papers from Miami congregation presented their report. On motion the report was accepted, and having been considered by paragraphs, it was unanimously adopted, and is as follows: ‘Your Committee, to whom were referred the papers from Miami congregation respectfully report’:
“The libel and the names of witnesses are in due form of ecclesiastical law, but it is evident that the letter of the law cannot be carried out in the absence of the accused and the witnesses; yet in regarding the well-known and approved rule, that ‘in extraordinary cases, something extraordinary may be done,’ your Committee recommend the following action:
“In the case of the Rev. J.J. Peoples, who absents himself as heretofore, the Presbytery was constrained to take the following action:
“Whereas the Rev. J.J. Peoples, a member of this court, has been following derisive courses for the last three years, and after repeated admonitions from this court and from individuals, persists in the same course, and—
“Whereas he, the said J.J. Peoples, has violated his promise of amendment given to this Court at last Meeting, and—
“Whereas he, the said Rev. J.J. Peoples, has slandered this court and its members; and
“Whereas, by verbal testimony and documentary evidence, this Presbytery is fully satisfied of the truth of the facts now recited, and that the said Rev. J.J. Peoples continues to treat this court with contumacy, avowing insubordination; therefore, however painful, we are constrained to resolve,
“That the Rev. J.J. Peoples be, and he hereby is, suspended from the exercise of the ministry, and from the privileges of this church, until he gives evidence of repentance by returning to duty.”
Consequent upon the above action, the Rev. J.F. Fulton was appointed to declare the Miami congregation vacant at his earliest convenience. Adjourned with prayer. To meet here to-morrow at 10 a.m.
Same place, May 26th, 10 o’clock, a.m.
Court met and was opened with prayer. All the members were present. The minutes were read and approved.
The committee on the signs of the times reported. The report was accepted and adopted, and is as follows:—
CAUSES OF FASTING.
“Sin and suffering have a legal connection in the divine government. ‘The soul that sinneth, it shall die. Death is the wages of sin.’ This penalty legally due to sin can be removed only by the satisfaction rendered to violated justice by the Lord Jesus Christ. Acting faith on these obvious principles which are clearly revealed in the holy Scriptures, sinners are encouraged to repentance; and this encouragement is afforded equally by a merciful God to individuals and communities, churches and nations. ‘He that confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall have mercy. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.’
On those warrantable grounds we would make mention of the following sins as being chargeable against ourselves and others individually and collectively in society:—
“1. Ignorance of God and of His word. This ignorance arises from a culpable neglect of the Bible. We too often read the Scriptures with sinful apathy, without searching them as our Lord directs, and without an humble dependence on the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Sinful ignorance of the spirituality and extent of the divine law and of its Author, is demonstrated by the frequent and loud processions of liberality, charity, so popular in our time. That is neither liberality nor charity which conflicts with ‘the perfect law of liberty.’ This sinful ignorance is further manifested by the frequent confounding of saving faith with assurance of a gracious state. Thus it is common to find in religious periodicals,—so many souls were converted at such a time and place: or, so many “professed conversion!” In view of such ignorance and self-deception we are called to self-examination, and to bewail such evident delusion.
2. Formality in divine worship. This complicated sin is now become so popular that even the secular press often satirises it by the name of ritualism. Almost all denominations seem to have imbibed the spirit of emulation in this retrograde movement towards anti-Christian Rome. Reading [of sermons by “so-called” preachers] has extensively supplanted the preaching of the gospel in opposition to the command and example of Christ. (Matt. 28:19; Luke 4:19-21.) Choirs, organs, and other instruments have well-nigh banished congregational singing in the praise of God. The eternal law of charity that no mouth shall be shut, (1 Cor. 14:14,15,23,24,26,) is often impiously set at nought, defeating the very ends of all divine institutions in the church—the glory of God and the edification of His people.
“3. Profane swearing, and the unnecessary repetition of oaths in the transacting of judicial and civil business. In city and country the wicked walk on every side, setting their mouth against the heavens in the most impious cursings, unawed by those in civil office who neglect to execute existing laws.
“4. The Holy Sabbath is greatly profaned by all ranks as a day of recreation. So nearly assimilated to the concert-hall and the theatre are the so-called ‘religious exercises’ in most fashionable churches, that the sacredness of the Lord’s Day is fast losing its hold on the people’s conscience. This primitive institution, which ‘was made for man,’ has almost ceased to be a sign between the Lord and his people. Few ‘call the Sabbath a delight.’
“5. Insubordination and social disorder. Neither age nor office is regarded according to the law of God, in the family, the Church, or the civil commonwealth; and superiors, by their own misconduct, too often fail to secure the respect and obedience of inferiors.
“6. Murders, drunkenness, and other crimes allied to these, or springing from them. Criminals are not adequately punished; whilst infidels and nominal Christians have prevailed with some legislatures to abolish capital punishment for any crime; thus attempting to abrogate the law of God.
“7. Unlawful, indiscreet, and clandestine marriages, with consequent desertions, divorces, and infanticides, fostered by theatrical exhibitions, obscene novels and licentious romances, are fearfully prevalent, greatly corrupting public morals. Those necromancers who deal with familiar spirits in our age as of old, are still ‘filthy dreamers, defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities;’ and these factors of Satan become peculiarly dangerous and infectious, when their ‘curious arts’ are sanctified in the eyes of the ignorant by the benediction of reputed Gospel ministers!
“8. Robberies, burglaries, and embezzlements. ‘The scant measure that is abominable . . . the wicked balances, and the bag of deceitful weights,’ are prevailing sins in society. A special aggravation of these enormities is, that some of them are chargeable to those who are in high positions of official trust.
“9. Official perjury, false-witness bearing, slander and back biting, are awfully prevalent in the land, in civil and ecclesiastical relations.
“10. The ‘evil covetousness’ which by ‘pious frauds’ grasped the substance of Europe to nurture monasticism in the ‘dark ages’ of Popery, finds its imitation, if not its parallel, in our modern fairs, festivals, exhibitions, &c., for avowed religious purposes and objects.
“11. Not only does the reigning power of sin thus appear in the life of individuals; but the community, the moral person, the national society, composed and sustained by almost all Christian denominations, continues to disown the one Lawgiver, practically saying, with the haughty monarch of Egypt, ‘Who is Jehovah that we should obey him?’ And even when the atheism of the national constitution has been brought under the notice of the supreme legislature, the claims of the Lord and his Anointed have been met with impious contempt, equal to that of Pharaoh. In view of an open Bible, this national impiety is peculiarly aggravated. Surely the words of the Lord Jesus will apply here:—‘If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; hut now they have no cloak for their sin.’
“12. Society is so broken into sections by oath-bound secret societies of Freemasons, Oddfellows, sons and daughters of temperance, and other more open combinations—all boasting of their philanthropy, charity, liberality, and freedom from sectarianism, while sectarianism is the very essence of them; that the principles or social organization implanted by the Creator in the moral constitution of man, and more clearly revealed in the Holy Scriptures, are almost unknown, repudiated and outraged.
“For these sins which are legible in the signs of the times passing over us, and in some of which we ourselves are more or less implicated, we would humble our souls with fasting before the Lord, and invite those under our inspection to join us in prayer and supplication, saying, ‘Be not wroth very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for ever. . . . . O remember not against us former iniquities; let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us, for we are brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name; and deliver us and purge away our sins for thy name’s sake.’”
CAUSES OF THANKSGIVING.
“God has never left Himself without, witnesses in the earth, and we may not overlook the tokens of His goodness to mankind in general, and to His own people in particular.
“1. He maketh the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust; giving us an example of universal beneficence—to do ‘good unto all men...especially to the household of faith;’ and thus by our example to counteract the influence of those who falsely claim a monopoly of liberality and charity. The mildness of the past winter greatly mitigated the sufferings of the poor, especially in large cities.
“2. The Lord in His providence still raises up some to defend precious doctrines of His word, which others strive to bury in oblivion by their zealous and frequently tyrannical measures, to effect, organic union among the churches.
“3. Efforts are still made by men of diverse parties to obtain a national recognition of Christianity—of God, of His law, and of His Son the Mediator. And however little progress is made in this direction, or however defective the views, or sordid the motives of some who appear as advocates of this measure, we are warranted to rejoice when the haters of the Lord are by any means constrained to feign submission to Him.
“4. The revolutions in Spain and Cuba, some of the most abject slaves of the Man of Sin, together with the Disestablishment of the Prelatic Church of Ireland, an ancient pillar of the anti-Christian system, are to be contemplated by us as the doing of His hand, who works all things most perfectly for His own people in answer to their prayers. And we may indulge the hope that having begun He will also make an end.
“5. The way of the Lord continues to be prepared by the rapid construction of canals and railways, by which His swift messengers may precede Him into every city and place, whither He Himself will come. Who can estimate the power of steam and electricity in the physical world as partially controlled by man? Or, who can calculate their influence when wielded by the Mediator’s hand, and made instrumental in controlling man?
“6. Education continues to be more extensively diffused in society, and in seminaries of learning a more thorough course than heretofore, of at, least intellectual training, is deemed requisite to enter into any of the learned professions.
“7. We still enjoy the food of our souls in the dispensation of Gospel ordinances according to Divine institution.
“The last Thursday of November next was appointed for Thanksgiving, and the last Thursday of January, 1870, for Fasting.
“Rev. J.F. Fulton was appointed to exercise his ministry in Miami congregation and elsewhere, when invited by our people; and Rev. D. Steele to visit the people in Adams Co., O., and dispense ordinances as our people there may desire.
“The Presbytery finally adjourned to meet at the call of the Moderator. Closed with prayer.
‘J.F. FULTON, Moderator,
“D. STEELE, P. Clerk.
 At the meeting of Presbytery in Hill Prairie, Illinois, May, 1867, Mr. Peoples, in a letter, said, “I do not expect to be at the meeting of Presbytery this time, and the only reason is the disappointment I met with in the causes of fasting” (i.e., in Philadelphia, 1866). In May, 1868, Mr. Peoples’ reasons of absence were asked in the usual order. He assigned as the only reason—want of funds! He was admonished, and counselled “to be more careful in assigning reasons of absence.” During the intermediate time between those meetings of Presbytery, Mr. Peoples had visited Hill Prairie, presided in session there, and, usurping the functions of the Presbytery, proceeded to restore to privilege a member who had declined the authority of Presbytery in open court.
 At last meeting of Presbytery, May 29th, 1868, a complaint was presented against their pastor by members of Miami congregation, of whom the following is a part:—”We complain of his too frequent dwelling, upon the immoralities of civil government in general, and of those of the United States in particular, in a way of denunciation rather than of argument, whereby opponents are irritated and not edified; that he has often misconstrued friendly advice tendered in private, as was evidenced by his recurring to it in public in the use of unguarded, and sometimes even violent, language; and that he has denounced some of us from the pulpit by name as his ‘enemies’ and ‘persecutors’; thus, as we think, profaning the Sabbath and the sanctuary, as also prostituting the ministerial office.” These complaints being fully verified, Mr. Peoples was solemnly admonished a second time, and taken engaged to amend. Shortly after a member of his congregation wrote “Mr. Peoples has broken his promise already. On last Sabbath he denounced the Presbytery as no longer a witnessing body.” Afterwards from the pulpit he declared, “That the officers of the church were doing all they could to stop the mouth of faithful witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
 On the 14th April, 1869, Mr. Peoples, among many other insulting and slanderous sentiments betraying insubordination, wrote to a member of Presbytery “This is as direct a falsehood as ever was uttered by man”; “I claim the right of speech, the liberty to utter my own conviction freely of the public acts of men at all times, and in all places, at discretion.” In view of such avowed insubordination, after repeated admonitions and fraternal counsel, the Presbytery did not think it either necessary or expedient to incur the cost and travel of some twelve hundred miles in order to have witnesses confront the accused, who still absented himself from last meeting of the Presbytery. To each count in the libel transmitted from Miami and referred to Presbytery’s committee, were appended the names of two or three witnesses, being members in regular standing in the congregation. (1 Tim. 5:19; 2 Thess. 3:6; 1 John 3:10.).